The long echo of war. Early-life exposure to armed conflict and female experiences of intimate partner violence


While there are reasons to expect a link between armed conflict and victimisation in intimate relationships, empirical evidence on the association is scant and rarely considers the age at exposure to war. This paper examines the legacy of experiencing armed violence in developmental ages on women’s later risk of intimate partner violence (IPV) in four ex-Soviet countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Tajikistan). I combine cross-national data on IPV from the Demographic and Health Survey and geo-referenced information from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, and compare the IPV outcomes of cohorts who were exposed to conflict before the end of their teens with same-age non-exposed and older cohorts. Findings show that war in young ages is associated with greater risk of experiencing IPV later in life. Exposure in childhood ages (0-10) matters the most, and is particularly related to suffering physical forms of IPV. Results hold for both lifetime and past- year domestic abuse, and are not driven by migration. I explore some pathways and find that, while attitudes towards IPV are not associated with early-age experience of conflict in women, men exposed to war in late adolescence (16-19) are more likely to condone violence against female partners. Normalisation of the use of violence in future potential perpetrators rather than desensitisation to abuse in victims appears as one plausible mechanism through which armed conflict can have lasting consequences on intimate relationship quality.

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